"I see a creative challenge in everything — from beer and burgers to the boardroom," says Jason Adams, former Entertainment Weekly executive editor and veteran writer. The New York-based scribe, who also has a deep design background, has recently re-embraced his passion for 3D products by becoming the co-creator of Sixfold, an accessories, home, and bag line. Sixfold's initial offerings — centered around a unique patent-pending no-sew design — include a beer carrier, a wine tote, and most recently a coffee carrier.
For Adams, clearly, creativity extends beyond the written word — and even design. His love of the tactile is best seen in the kitchen, or at the grill. Grab a beer or a glass of wine (or even a coffee), and join him for a fireside chat about another baby of his — the seven homemade burger condiments that will rock your world. (Editor's note: The following is culled from a series of emails originally intended for background info, and the recipes may appear loose and imprecise. Improvise and improve!)
#1 Jalapeño-Honey "Mustard"
"I tend to like to replace dried ingredients with fresh ones: burgers are greasy and benefit from brightness," Adams says. Mince a fresh jalapeño, then put the pieces in a paper towel or cheesecloth and twist it to wring out any minor wetness. Add salt and toss to leech additional liquid. Refrigerate everything and let steep overnight, then blend in a food processor the next day, adding 1 tablespoon of honey, 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar, and a dash of Dijon mustard. You'll have a condiment with heat that also is fresh and bright, and perfectly replaces your tabletop mustard.
#2 Gaucho Arugula Ensalada Salsa
Chimichurri is a red-meat champ. So what if you could let it still add the perfect acidity to the fat while also doubling as your veggie ration. Using about 1 cup of arugula, mince 1/4 of a white onion and add 1 tablespoon of garlic (Adams likes to grate or microplane). Add in 1/4 of a chopped dried red pepper, salt to taste, and splash in 1/8 cup of red-wine vinegar. If possible, toss in 1/4 cup of fresh oregano, which "adheres to the overall tradition," he says. Adams recommends you chop everything by hand. But also gets lazy himself, and admits a food processor is just fine.
#3 Chicago Beef Hot Giardiniera Mayo
"So this is one of those 'I'm no longer in my hometown' hacks. Italian beef is a classic sandwich no Chicagoan can, even if he or she moves away, live without. The key here is the hot-pepper giardiniera," a local favorite relish.
Adams orders his favorite Dell'Alpe brand of giardiniera online. To two cups of the jarred magic, he adds in about 1/2 cup of freshly roasted red peppers along with a cup and a half of mayonnaise. Blend it in a food processor, and serve on a a firm roll or English muffin — something that can stand up to the zest. (Sorry, brioche lovers. Not this time.)
#4 Irish Breakfast Chili Sauce Surprise
"Chili sauce has always been a bit of an outlier — but I do like the idea of ketchup with a little pep. And the mixture of bacon bits I use, and diced onion, give a nice nod to both the jarred chili sauce and Irish breakfast. This burger can also take a hard roll — with butter. And if it’s before noon — or after midnight — I won't roll my eyes at an egg. The basic ingredients: Ketchup, crispy bacon bits, chopped white onion, and Worcester sauce to mimic the flavor of a brown sauce like HP, without adding more goo to your condiment."
#5 Martini-Shaken Tapenade
"This is for those of us who enjoy our burgers with a dollop of Mad Men," he jokes. "My Polish grandma had a fixed date with a martini every day, and she tended to like anchovy-stuffed olives in hers. And that adds a lot of depth to a tapenade too. What I do is take a jar of anchovy stuffed olives, and drain most of the juice. Then, I add a vodka like Smirnoff (Nana wasn't fussy) to the jar and let it sit overnight — kind of the same premise as a Russian vodka bar. Infuse, but don't overtake the olives. The next day, drain off the olive-y vodka, and either chop or blend the olives into a paste. And keep it cold, like a martini. This goes really well — as do martinis — with blue cheese."
#6 Spaghettios Mayo-Mustard (No Cans Harmed or Opened in the Making of This)
"A lot of people know 'fry sauce,'" implores Adams, "but there's an exact amount, if you use Cholula hot sauce instead of something like Franks, that will, I kid you not, taste exactly like the sauce of Spaghettios. This would be a burger on a tacky roll, like a Martins potato bun. Ratio: two-parts stoneground Kosciusko's mustard, two-parts mayo, one-part Cholula. Mix and chill. Goes nicely with pickle slices and fontina cheese."
#7 Maytag (Refrigerator) Garlic-Relishin' Pickle Relish
"My Nana always had peak-season Polish dills made right from her garden," Adams, well, relishes. "It’s something I replicate myself, when dill flowers are available mid-summer, with a 50-50 cider brine. I don't can my pickles in the traditional way — all that heat turns the cukes to mush. I let them marinate in the fridge, for a week to six months. I go heavy on the garlic — again, I am a fan of bright things. I never let a dried ingredient into my brine. Corriander or mustard seed just add funk." Once the pickles are set: "Toss on a cutting board, and give it all a simple chop — I run my knife through the pickled garlic and cucumbers, altogether, and if you like it a little on the sweet side I'll pretend I didn't see you add a spoonful of honey."